On Sunday morning, in glorious sunshine, people from the Cathedral and other congregations within Ripon gathered in the Market Place for the blessing of palms. It was Palm Sunday, the beginning of Holy Week.
It was a great start to the annual retelling of the story of Jesus’s suffering, crucifixion and resurrection.
Today is Maundy Thursday.
Christians the world over are gathering, as it were, with Jesus in the upper room.
The 7.30pm service at the Cathedral will be like countless others globally, as we reflect on how Jesus shared his last meal with his disciples, charging them in the future to eat bread that would be to them his body, and to drink wine that would be to them his blood – only possible because of the appalling death he would suffer the following day.
And at that same evening meal, Jesus took the role of the servant by washing his disciples’ feet – here was a profound lesson in the most enduring and effective style of leadership.
The stages of this narrative are probably well known to you.
There has been concern recently, however, that there may be attempts to sideline Easter and its story by some organisations in our society.
Cadburys and the National Trust, possibly inadvertently, have caused quite a stir.
Well, the Church is never complacent, and looks for the support of all the friends it can find to keep the good news of Christianity alive in the national consciousness.
Thankfully, if my observation of local schools is a reliable barometer, we have much to be encouraged about.
Last week, I was invited to judge the Decorated Easter Egg competition at Ripon Cathedral Primary School.
That is the sort of exercise that results in you gaining a few friends, and losing many! But, as the head teacher said, they were all ‘eggcellent’.
What was excellent, quite seriously, was the fact that during the collective worship, the children could tell me a huge amount about the events of Holy Week and Easter.
The acts of worship, in numerous styles and with differing levels of solemnity, that take place in cathedrals and churches this week help to teach the story to those who need to learn it, and give an opportunity to the well- initiated to ponder again the life and world-transforming impact of what Jesus did and experienced in that first Holy Week.
It would seem that daily we receive a news report of yet another event that reinforces the unquestionable truth that this world is not perfect.
Recent tragic examples from Westminster, Stockholm, Syria and, just last weekend, Egypt come to mind. Also, many of us struggle daily with the effects of poor health and bad decisions; it can sometimes seem that the world is against us.
It was just the same in Jesus’ day, and just the same for him. In a world of political and social injustice he suffered betrayal and torment.
Tomorrow, Good Friday, we remember how on the cross Jesus cried: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me”.
Like many others, before and since, he too concluded that even God must be against him.
The reason we celebrate so enthusiastically on Sunday, why it is so important that Easter and its story are known and taken to heart, is that this great Christian feast asserts that nothing could be further from the truth.
Christians believe that in raising Jesus Christ from the dead, God was showing that there is hope for all people in every situation.
Easter asserts that life is not destroyed by death and God’s love is not defeated by the hatred and failings of the world.